Entrepreneurs of North Carolina History Exhibit

Tourism Entrepreneurs of the 1950s

Hugh Morton1952Hugh Morton

Hugh Morton inherited Grandfather Mountain from his grandfather in 1952. He decided to make it more accessible to tourists by extending a road to the summit and building the site's first tourist attraction, the Mile High Swinging Bridge. He also developed a visitor center, seven native wildlife habitats, a nature museum and a theater. Not only a savvy businessperson, Morton was also a successful conservationist. He successfully persuaded the federal government not to tunnel through Grandfather Mountain and donated scenic easements to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy to protect the backcountry. Also an accomplished photographer, Morton used his skills to promote Grandfather Mountain. After his death in 2006, Morton's family sold the mountain to the state of North Carolina for $12 million. It became the state's 34th state park in 2009.

1957Frazier Peele

Frazier PeeleFrazier Peele was a highly respected leader in his community, and was given credit for the first Ocracoke to Hatteras Ferry. Peele had enough foresight to see the desperate need for a ferry.  With very little formal education or money, on a shoestring, Captain Peele started his first ferry for the people there on the Island.  Realizing the need, he started the service that eventually was brought to the attention of the State Highway Commission, which later resulted in the State buying his Ferry Service . 

Up until his death, he continued to serve as Port Captain of the Hatteras docks for the NCDOT, in which employ he had been since 1957. Prior to operating the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry, Peele ran a freight and passenger boat from Hatteras to Engelhard.  In addition to the State (NCDOT) position, Peele owned/operated a truck line and a restaurant in Hatteras which bears his name.  He was a descendant of one of the oldest and most famous families on the Island."

1957William A.V. Cecil

When George Washington Vanderbilt II constructed Biltmore Estate, he had no idea the Gilded Age mansion would become a popular tourist attraction. Not even Vanderbilt's daughter, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, who first opened the house to the public in 1930, would have guessed the property would one day host 900,000 people a year. It took the business acumen of her son, William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, Sr., to revitalize the estate.

When Cecil took over in 1960, the only profitable part of the property was a dairy. After eight years, Cecil quadrupled the number of visitors and made his first profit—a whopping $16.34. He added restaurants, gift shops and a winery and overhauled the once dormant Christmas season. Cecil retired in 1995 with his son, Bill, Jr., as the new head of The Biltmore Company.

Bruton Smith1959Bruton Smith

Bruton Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bankruptcy forced him to leave town in 1961 to start a car dealership in Illinois. He returned a decade later to buy back the racetrack and found Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns eight NASCAR tracks.

1959Joan Zimmerman

Joan ZimmermanJoan Zimmerman launched Southern Shows with her husband Robert, and after three years they relocated it to Charlotte. The first shows didn't make any money. Today, Southern Shows produces 19 shows annually, including The Southern Spring Home & Garden Show.